Thursday, August 22, 2013

Walker's Screwy Relationship With Trains Could Get More Costly

Hard to believe, but Gov. Walker's transportation department is discussing improvements to Amtrak's "Hiawatha" service between Milwaukee and Chicago after Walker threw away a federally-funded construction grant to expand the Amtrak Hiawatha expansion to Madison and build more trains in a hard-pressed Milwaukee industrial district.

Walker's hostility to Amtrak validated his blustery, anti-Obama, Tea Partyish "No Train...STOP the TRAIN" campaign website and pleased his SE Wisconsin right wing talk radio base - - but now an improvement plan for the Hiawatha could require...wait for it...buying a new train...built somewhere else.

So reports The Business Journal.

But a new train would not be not one of the two new Amtrak trains already built in Milwaukee for the Hiawatha line, and which sit unused and unavailable in a Milwaukee storage facility due to Walker's rejection of the federal funding that also included vital equipment to maintain the trains.

No maintenance facility here, no new trains for Wisconsin - - and Talgo, the manufacturer, is suing over the state's default on the train assembly and maintenance contract.

A default approved by the Legislature, syncing up politically with Walker.

The default put Walker's hard-edged  "No Train...STOP the TRAIN" theme into practice.
Which leaves officials scrounging the Amtrak fleet for a hand-me-down train, or paying someone to build them a new train. For the Hiawatha line.

Like these Milwaukee-built, banned-in-Wisconsin trains now serving Oregon.
train cab in production
A new train to take advantage of record Hiawatha ridership between Milwaukee and Chicago (but not Madison, you Democratic, environmental stronghold).

All this in a state open for business [Sic] that had a promising train assembly facility - - see and read about two of the trains being enjoyed in Oregon - - and maintenance plant in a low-income Milwaukee neighborhood with high unemployment.

In a state where Walker is falling far short of the pace he needs to meet his signature pledge to create 250,000 new jobs.

Part of the blame for this fiasco is at the doorstep of the Milwaukee business community.

It backed Walker for Governor, which meant it stood with Walker's propaganda that the entire idea was overly-expensive and pro-Jim Doyle, then engaged in a little insincere charade joining Walker when he asked the Obama administration to return some of the money Walker dismissed to fund Milwaukee station upgrades the traveling Milwaukee business community wanted to enjoy.

The Obama administration took Walker at his "NO Train...STOP the TRAIN" word and said the money Walker had blocked had been re-allocated to more train-friendly states that knew how to keep their states' partnership pledges.

Cross-posted at Purple Wisconsin.


Paddy Moran said...


Anonymous said...

The people of Wisconsin sent the NO TRAINS message loud and clear by electing Scott Walker Governor over the pro-train backer - wait for it - Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

In fact they sent the No message - wait for it - twice by beating Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett again.

A commuter train in a small population density state is pointless. You want to see pointless, go to the City of Waukesha and see the air busses (empty) driving around leaving a massive carbon footprint per rider.

Lastly, at this point, what difference does it make?

Paddy said...

5:41 : what did Bush say - fool me once., shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me-

I believe it applies to You 5:41. Yet the recall vote was never about the train was it.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous,

Did you even read the post? What difference does it make? The point is that we in Wisconsin-- the taxpayers-- are still paying for this huge bad policy decision by Walker, with real dollars out of real pockets. Do you grasp that? And does that make you want to vote for him again? And you don't want voters to be fully informed on what's happening in Wisconsin?

And all you can do is ask "What difference does it make?" People like you are part of the reason a really really bad Governor was elected twice in Wisconsin, and by 'bad' I don't mean just anti-union: Walker is anti-business.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

You want to see pointless, go to the City of Waukesha and see the air busses (empty) driving around leaving a massive carbon footprint per rider.

Mass transit being underutilized in a city that is predicated on auto traffic? Who would think?

even so, I have a feeling your anecdata is picked from a point where the bus was either starting or finishing a route, or at a particularly slow period of the day.

And buses have little to do with light rail, other than they both can be elements of an effective mass transit system.

Not to mention that the rail connection from Chicago through Madison to MPLS was vetted and shown to be a winner and a spur to job creation and development.

But, you know; like the Republicans in Louisiana who believe Obama is to blame for the poor federal response to Katrina, facts and stuff don't matter when you have your Stories.

Anonymous said...


Have you ever been to Waukesha?

I invite you and your family to Waukesha this evening, or any Friday night. From 6 -9 you can enjoy the free music venues, eat food, and enjoy the arts. Take a walk around Frame Park's river walk.

Perhaps some of Milwaukee's residents preconceived notions about Waukesha liberal this / conservative that can be less rhetorical when you visit.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Have you ever been to Waukesha?

well, of course I have. Milwaukeeans aren't as scared of your city as you are of ours.

It's nice. Not for me, but you just go ahead and enjoy it.

I invite you and your family to Waukesha this evening, or any Friday night. From 6 -9 you can enjoy the free music venues, eat food, and enjoy the arts. Take a walk around Frame Park's river walk.

This is funny. Change the name of the city, and I would bounce the invitation right back to you. except, of course, that our festivities aren't limited to Friday nights....

Perhaps some of Milwaukee's residents preconceived notions about Waukesha liberal this / conservative that can be less rhetorical when you visit.

Of course, none of what you've said has anything to do with mass transit, which was the point of the OP and my comment. Feel free to come back when you have an argument.

Also, feel free to own your comments by stepping out from behind the Anonymous tag. Many people assume, based on experience, that Anonymous commenters are trolls.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I asked.

Olive branches are probably never going to be accepted by liberals under any circumstances as long as you never venture beyond a very small world.

"coexist", funny bumper sticker. It has no meaning.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

pretty thin skinned, aren't you? I didn't respond in anything other than the spirit of your post.

And who is all about preconceived notions of liberals now? I don't even have a "coexist" sticker on my car...

Anonymous said...

The train to Madison would have been overpriced and slow. At the time I was driving to Milwaukee on a daily basis. The proposed fares were too high for a daily commute and the proposed train times and actual travel times did not work either. It would been better to upgrade the Line between Chicago and Green bay for real high speed rail.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said in apparent reference to plans to extend Amtrak service to Madison that "A commuter train in a small population density state is pointless."

The point itself is irrelevant because no one was proposing a commuter train between Milwaukee and Madison.

What was being proposed was the first phase of a fast trains system between Chicago and the Twin Cities, through Madison, after 15+ years of state investment to pull it off. And Chicago also would offer connections with other Amtrak and Canadian trains going to 1,000 communities in North America, many of which have no air or bus service. That is what was lost.

We also lost the tourism dollars, a new train manufacturing industry, and badly-needed jobs in a numer of communities this new service would have brought with it. The cost to Wisconsin of this outcome has been huge, and will only grow much larger until such time as a majority of our elected representatives take a business approach and consider the favorable return on investment more passenger trains will bring to Wisconsin.

Wendtsc said...

The problem was (as Walker clearly saw and many of you can't) that the proposed snail HSR to Madison with trains bought by Doyle without any bidding process or legislative approval, would have turned into a money pit that would have killed any future Passenger Rail expansion plans. Any Passenger Rail route that serves downtown Madison ends in a dead end track and can't continue on to MSP. By making the 1st Phase serve downtown, the proposal would have added an extra 45 minutes to an hour to the existing schedule because all trains would have to back out Madison before continuing. A trip by HSR to MSP through Madison would have taken 40 minutes longer than a trip by car! Every federal and state sponsored study (other than those done in Madison) clearly showed the current Columbus route is best for any new service. (as Walker has supported) MnDOT used their HSR funding grant on a 1,000 page study that actually proved the Madison HSR would have been a waste of money!
The tin cans on a string death traps Talgo calls a train included a ridiculously long-term maintenance contract tens of millions more expensive than the cost of the more traditional (and more flexible) Amtrak equipment WisDOT is now studying which Amtrak will service at "cost." In fact, for a true comparison of the boondoggle Walker saved us from, all one has to do is go to the Amtrak Cost Analysis and compare how much the Cascade Talgos are costing. (You can't trust WashDOT or ODOT anymore than you can trust a gambler to admit how much they lose gambling!) Side further down the west coast and you will see what kind of damage billion dollar HSR projects can do to Public support for all rail projects.

Whether you wan to admit it or not, many Democrats are not Pro-Rail, but Pro-Pork Rail and only when it can buy them votes or support. And all Republicans are not Anti-Rail, just Pro-Smart Rail. The Talgo/Madison deal just wasn't smart.